Although Council was able to take a month-long recess, the Highland Heights Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) wasn’t so lucky. Commission members remained hard at work in August.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT NEWS
There was more positive economic development news at the August 27th P&Z meeting.
Fire Chief Bill Turner---not a usual attendee---came to the P&Z meeting to share several concerns about Kemper House’s plan.
Turner wanted to ensure that the facility had sufficient access drives for emergency vehicles. He also worried about the demands that the facility might place on the emergency services provided by his department:
“We are a small dept. We are taxed. I am concerned about what impact it (Kemper House) will have on the rest of the community.”
Kemper House’s response was both realistic and reassuring:
“Our population is different (than the assisted living facility on Bishop Road, which Turner indicated has added to the city’s emergency services workload). They (our residents) can’t dial 911. They don’t have phones in their room. We are not a skilled nursing facility…The average age of our residents is 86. They have DNRs (do not resuscitate orders).”
The owner of Kemper House told P&Z:
“Our market study showed a huge need for residential dementia care in this area. We like to think we can be a huge resource for the community.”
RESIDENTS ASK FOR VARIANCES FROM THE WORK-RELATED VEHICLES PARKING ORDINANCE.
In 2004, Highland Heights Council enacted Ordinance 1141.08), which restricts the parking of commercial and work vehicles in residential areas. The ordinance has teeth---violations constitute a “minor misdemeanor” enforceable in court, and residents face a $100 fine for “each day or fraction thereof, during which noncompliance or a violation continues…”
The ordinance differentiates between commercial vehicles based on their weight.
There are no additional requirements placed on the owners of very large (one ton and over) commercial vehicles, but the ordinance requires owners of vehicles under 1 ton to cover up all “lettering, signage or other commercial indicia…in a manner acceptable to the Building Department” and to remove all “equipment, tools, ladders and similar items… from the vehicle” each night.
I find the ordinance a bit troubling from a legal standpoint.
Any ordinance that results in prosecution and the imposition of hefty penalties should notify residents in a clear and nondiscretionary manner exactly what they must do to stay out of trouble.
And while Council is certainly allowed to delegate responsibility to the Building Commissioner to enforce the ordinance, it should provide clear parameters that limit and define the exercise of that authority, so that everyone---residents, Council and the Commissioner alike---know, upfront, just what those limits are.
Stating that residents must act “in a manner acceptable to the Building Department” just doesn’t cut it in my book.
Also troubling is the fact that the ordinance---which presumably was enacted to address the aesthetic challenges presented by commercial vehicles parked in residential driveways----appears to give a total pass to larger (1 ton+) commercial vehicles; it doesn’t seem to require owners of those vehicles to cover up commercial signs and lettering or remove exterior equipment.
Only owners of smaller commercial vehicles are required to do that.
The ordinance doesn’t provide any rationale or reason for that discriminatory treatment.
There’s another basic problem with the ordinance, though.
Times have changed and more residents drive business-related vehicles now than 20 years ago.
A growing number of residents are coming to P&Z asking for “variances” from (i.e. to be legally relieved from complying with) the parking ordinance.
Three such individuals were listed on P&Z’s August 27th agenda.
One resident explained,
“I am on 24/7 call. I have to have my (commercial) vehicle at my residence to keep my job….I just want to work and go home, that’s it.“
Another resident told P&Z:
"I operate a business out of my home. I have a ½ ton van with ladders and signage. I moved here in June 1981. No one said anything until now. I have had the same type of vehicle since that time. My vehicle will not fit into the garage. It is not financially feasible for me to alter the garage…I am on 24 hour call. I leave at 5:30 am. Putting up ladders (on top of the van) at 5:15am would be noisy and a nuisance…To my knowledge there have been no complaints about my vehicle since I moved in. It hasn’t caused a change to the environment. It does not impede fire or safety.”
In a dramatic illustration of just how ambiguous and confusing the ordinance really is---even to P&Z---the commission members decided to postpone taking any action on the residents’ variance requests. They decided, instead, to ask Council for clarification regarding the ordinance’s intent and language.
Council’s representative to P&Z, Bob Mastrangelo, seemed to sum up P&Z’s concerns:
“There should be reason to compromise here. I understand that people do not want big commercial vehicles, but there should be way to accommodate people who need vehicles for work as well. “
Residents can only hope that Council takes a second, hard look at the ordinance---and does so quickly. According to Building Commissioner Dale Grabfelder, 4 residents are currently awaiting court hearings after the city filed misdemeanor complaints against them for violating the ordinance.
These are excerpts from Ordinance 111.08:
No person shall keep, park, store… overnight any commercial vehicle or truck…in a U-1, U-2, U-3 (residential) use district, except... not more than one commercial vehicle or one truck, not exceeding one ton… may be parked in a covered and closed garage or otherwise entirely out of sight of any adjacent property … provided the trucks or commercial vehicles are used solely by the owner(s) or occupant(s) of the premises. 1141.08(a)(6).
Commercial vehicles shall.. include any pick up truck with a rated capacity of one ton or less, van, or sport utility vehicle that is used for commercial, business, or manufacturing purposes and bears any one or more of the following: mounted equipment, signs, racks carrying equipment, tools, ladders, lettering, building material and/or similar items. …(Such) vehicles… may be parked in a U-1, U-2, or U-3 use district …if the owner or occupant covers the lettering, signage or other commercial indicia in a manner acceptable to the Building Department and/or removes any and all equipment, tools, ladders and similar items from the vehicle while parking overnight. 1141.08(d)
DOES DEVELOPER LANCE OSBORNE REALLY THINK THE RULES DON’T APPLY TO HIM?
At the beginning of the P&Z meeting, P&Z Chair Vince Adamus explained the variance process, which begins by the filling out of a variance request form. In that form residents are asked to list both the zoning code at issue and the exact type of variance requested (i.e., “a 4 foot, 8” variance from the rear setback requirements found in Highland Heights Ordinance xxx.”).
P&Z uses the information to have a detailed, preliminary discussion with the applicant. After having that discussion, P&Z will usually schedule a public hearing and notify nearby neighbors of the variance request. P&Z can’t vote on the variance request until after a public hearing is held.
Once again I have to wonder if developer Lance Osborne thinks that the P&Z rules apply to everyone else.
Osborne appeared at the August 27th P&Z meeting to discuss his variance requests for his proposed mega GetGo development on the former Catalano’s grocery store property.
It appeared from the conversation that Osborne expected a public hearing to be held on his variance requests at the next (September 10th) P&Z meeting. Osborne seemed to have that expectation even though he hadn’t fully filled out the required variance request forms.
Osborne spoke in vague generalities about the variances he was requesting without providing specifics to P&Z---either as to the applicable zoning code sections or as to the precise variances that he was seeking.
This time around Osborne didn’t get any special treatment from P&Z---despite the best efforts of Law Director Tim Paluf.
Paluf-- -who rarely attends P&Z meetings---tried to help Osborne out, suggesting that a public hearing could still be held in on September 10th if Osborne provided the missing information to the P&Z clerk by August 31st, the deadline for mailing required hearing notices.
That suggestion didn’t sit well with P&Z. Chairman Vince Adamus pointed out:
“When we get one of these (a variance request form), all of the (variance) amounts are supposed to be filled in so we (P&Z) can ask questions.
Commission member Don McFadden explained,
“It is difficult to review (a variance request) when we don’t have the code sections.”
Even Councilman Bob Mastrangelo---a supporter of Osborne’s mega GetGo project---was reluctant to forge ahead. He said,
“I think the (variance) application should be complete. Holding a public hearing next time doesn’t give us any time. It’s not like you (Osborne) are planning to break ground tomorrow. He (Osborne) can come back in two weeks with all the numbers in there…I’d back it (the public hearing) off. Typically when someone comes in, the form should be filled out. They should not plan to come back with more information. If we don’t have a (public) hearing next time we’re not holding up anything.”
Osborne is expected to return to P&Z---will fully completed variance request forms---on September 10th.
$250 FOR A BRICK?
The Mayfield Schools are planning to celebrate the “inaugural opening of Wildcat Park” (i.e. the renovated High School football stadium) beginning at 9 am on September 8th.
The Wildcat Community Foundation, the group behind the project, is still working to meet its multi-million dollar fundraising goal.
For a $250 donation, you can have your name or message engraved on a paver installed at the football field entrance.
If you have a little more money to spare---say $200,000 or more---you will be named a “Platinum Cat” and be recognized with a plaque on a donor wall.
For more information: www.MayfieldWildcatPark.com.